May 13, 2014 9:23pm
Re: I'll Take A Melody JGB 2-28-80
Agreed on all above. BTW, great liner notes by Hunter for the release. Discusses how Dylan thought Garcia was best interpreter of Dylan's works.
"Write about a JGB tour form 25 years ago? It was still liquid time: We were
all immortal then, and chronology didn't count; it just kind of dripped and
puddled. Let's see...who was in the band back then? Johnny de Foncensca, Ozzie
Ahlers, and John Kahn. This was a stripped-down Garcia Band, a mere quartet,
all business and no frills. No backup singers. Just enough rhythm and chordal
harmony to permit soloing. It didn't feature much in the way of Grateful Dead
songs. A lot of good Garcia solo-band songs hadn't been written yet. There are
as many Dylan tunes at this particular gig, at Kean College, as there are
Garcia-Hunter compositions.(Did anyone ever mention that Garcia is probably the top Dylan interpreter, after the man himself? Dylan thinks so, and I'd have to
"Jerry was in top form vocally and instrumentally, playing lead and back up
guitar at the same time. Those sneaky backup phrases are evident everywhere.
And there is an energy to Jerry's whole performance that shows him at his very
peak. He even remembers the words! In this context, his guitar-solo work is
convesational rather than declamatory. Quarter style--talkin' to you. No intent
to impress. Prestadium stuff. Call-and-response is thick, John rising and
falling like waves over which Garcia surfs effortlessly. Cool. Definative. This
is a new music. Nothing else like it anywhere, though no one particularly
notices. Why should they? It sounds like this form has always existed. Perhaps
it has, but not in "rock."
"1980 found us at the high end of our thirties, hailed and defiled as ancients
in the punk-, new wave-, and heavy metal-dominated world of rock, after an
unheard-of 15 year run in the majors. Fifteen years in popular music without a
single major hit, although we provided the biggest dependable draw in the game. I'd already written "Touch of Grey," although it would be another half-decade before the band got around to rescoring and recording it, granting us more"sucess" than we knew what to do with. Which was all to the good. We were
always more comfortable crawling on our bellies to make ends meet than
accommodating the glare and diamond screens of the stadiums."
"When I(R.Hunter) got the call to join the tour, I was living in a little house
with mortgage payments of $640 a month, driving a used car, and doing five or
six solo tours a year, bringing home an average of $10,000 per tour to feed and
clothe a family of five. GD records didn't sell all that well, so royalties
were pretty punk, and I needed to perform to live. Jerry was doing better
financially, but fielding higher expenses, so he had to work as hard as someone
starting out in his career."
"Failing a hit record, rock 'n' roll is a hard grind. Jerry was forever putting
bands together in fits of enthusiasm; then he had to take them on tour to
support them. He paid them, and his crews, well, and they were intensely loyal.
But it took its toll on his health. It was obvious he was dangerously
overextending himself, but you might as well tell the sun not to shine as tell
Garcia not to travel. The band I toured with in the winter of 1980 was the 5th
or 6th such unit he'd assembled, most including his good friend John Kahn. John
was a great wit and very easy to be around. That was essential. Relax and roll
was the motto.
"Little Johnny Dee was the son of Big Johnny Dee, a jolly Jamaican carpenter
who built Mickey's studio in the pastures of Novato. I remember Little Johnny
as a quiet kid who grew up around the scene and liked to work out on Mickey's
drum kit, which was always set up in the studio, getting tips from the master
along the way. This tour was his 1st chance at the big time. It was damned
sweet of Jerry to hand it to him, and the kid proved adequate to the chance.
Johnny, Sr., had died a while before(Cancer I think), and Johnny, Jr., didn't
have long to live, with a car wreck soon to write Paid to his future, but at
least he got a chance to do the dream for a while."
"Jerry was also giving me my first crack at the larger stages."My pleasure to
introduce you to the big time," he said with W.C. Fields-ian grandiosity. I'd
been playing the dives with my band Roadhog (which included Ozzie Ahlers on
keyboard), and then more dives with my subsequent band Comfort, but couldn't
make enough money to pay anybody very much. In fact, I didn't take a cut--there wasn't enough. I'd begun doing solo shows for the aformentioned reasons. So,when the call came, I was roughly ready and more than a bit nervous."
"Truth be told, I felt more comfortable fronting the band for "Tiger Rose" and
"Promontory Rider" than taking the solo-spot hot seat for which I'd been hired.
At least people weren't miling around through my set, waiting for the band
they'd paid to see! With the redoubtable bass of Kahn underfoot and sweet fills
by Garcia to camouflage my ragged guitar chops, it was a piece of cake. I think
it was Jerry's way of paying me back somewhat for the submerged, "in the shadow of" status of lyricist. Long used to being The Invisible Man, I enjoyed a taste of the light shining on me in the big rooms as much as he semed to enjoy
"Jerry's generousity of spirit was as deep as his talent; they were part of
parcel of the same thing. I'm not just eulogizing here. If you've got ears to
hear, there it is in his music and in his voice."
~Robert Hunter on JGB's 2/28/1980 Kean College "After Midnight" show/winter
This post was modified by bluedevil on 2014-05-14 04:23:17